Sisal is a plant that is not widely grown in northern Uganda. Those who grow it plant some few stems only. Fibers are removed from its long and wide leaves. The fibers are used for making ropes.


The mature plant has got long,straight stems that are used in making roofs of huts.

Colin's Research on Sisal
Sisal (Agave sisalana)

After researching the plant I found that it is an agave plant produces a stiff fiber that is traditionally used in making rope, twine, and dartboards. It is often incorrectly referred to as sisal hemp since hemp was used for centuries as a common source for fiber.
The origin of the plant is uncertain, but I found that it is traditionally deemed to be a native of the Yucatan, although there are no records of sisal in botanical collections from the Yucatan. H.S. Gentry hypothesized that it was actually from Chiapas (a state within Mexico) due to the strength of traditional local usage. Sisal cultivation spread during the 19th century to Florida, the Caribbean islands, Brazil, Africa (Tanzania), Kenya, and Asia. It was first commercially planted in Brazil in the late 1930’s and the first sisal fiber exports from Brazil were made in 1948. The first Brazilian spinning mills were established in the 1960’s and accelerated production. Globally, Brazil is the largest producer of sisal.
Uses: It has been traditionally used for rope and twine but can also be used for paper, cloth, wall coverings, and carpets. Sisal has been the leading material for agricultural twine (binder twine and baler twine) because of its’ strength, durability, ability to stretch, resistance to deterioration in saltwater, and affinity for certain dyestuffs. The importance of sisal in traditional use (ropes and twines) is diminishing, with the competition of polypropylene, and other new haymaking techniques. New, higher-value uses have been found for sisal including; dartboards, specialty paper, buffing cloth, filters, geotextiles, mattresses, carpets, and handicrafts wire rope cores. It’s also utilized as an environmentally friendly strengthening agent. The lower grade fiber is processed by paper industries. The medium grade fiber is used for making ropes, baler and binder twine. The higher grade fiber is converted into yarns and used for the carpet industry. Other products made from sisal fiber include spa products, cat scratching posts, lumbar support belts, rugs, slippers, cloths, and disc buffers.
Environmental Impacts: Farming of Sisal initially caused environmental degradation, because sisal plantations replaced native forests. It is still considered less damaging than many types of farming, which is always a good thing I think. There are no chemical fertilizers used in sisal production, and although herbicides are occasionally used, even this impact may be eliminated since most weeding is done by hand. The waste from the decortication (the removal of an outer layer such as bark, rind, or a husk) process causes serious pollution when it is allowed to flow into watercourses. In Tanzania there are plans to use the waste as biofuel.
Extracting the fiber: The extracting process is known as decortication, where leaves are crushed with blunt knives so that only fibers remain. Extraction of the fiber uses only a small percentage of the plant, some attempts to improve economic viability have focused on utilizing the waste material for production of biogas, for stock feed, or the extraction of pharmaceutical materials.
East Africa has the finest quality sisal, where production is typically on large estates, the leaves are transported to a central decortication plant. Water is then used to wash away the waste parts of the leaf. The fiber is then dried, brushed, and baled for export. Proper drying is important as fiber quality depends largely on moisture content. Artificial drying has resulted in generally better grades of fiber than sun drying, but is not feasible in the developing countries where sisal is produced.

Global production and trade patterns
Major sisalproducers — 2007(**China** 2006) (thousands of tons)
People's Republic of China
South Africa
World Total